Did your newborn receive a hearing screening?


(S) Newborn Hearing

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

If your baby was born sometime in the last 13 years, he/she most likely received a hearing screening prior to hospital discharge. Every state has established a universal newborn hearing screening program as of 2005, and Texas established its program in 1999.

What’s a newborn hearing screening?

Your baby’s first hearing screening is usually completed before leaving the hospital after delivery. If your baby was born at home or at a birthing center, ask your pediatrician about obtaining a hearing screening.

There are two screening options to consider:

  • An otoacoustic emissions (OAE) screening measures the cochlea’s response to sound. The cochlea is the organ of hearing.
  • An automated auditory brainstem response (AABR) screening evaluates the auditory (hearing) nerves’ responses to sound.

These screenings are designed to determine the likelihood of hearing loss in your baby and if more in-depth testing is necessary. They will result in a pass or fail/refer.

What if my baby failed their newborn hearing screening?

Approximately 2-10 percent of babies will fail their initial screening. If your baby fails the screening, this doesn’t automatically mean he/she has permanent hearing loss. However, it does signal a need for further testing. If your baby fails the newborn hearing screening, it’s critical to schedule follow-up testing with a pediatric audiologist. Diagnostic hearing tests administered by the audiologist will confirm your baby’s hearing status and determine the type and severity of the hearing loss.

What if my baby has permanent hearing loss?

If diagnostic testing confirms permanent hearing loss, a hearing aid or cochlear implant will likely be recommended. Follow-up testing will be completed periodically to monitor your baby’s hearing. The pediatric audiologist and your baby’s pediatrician will work together to establish a plan of care.

What causes permanent hearing loss in babies?

The cause of permanent hearing loss in babies varies, but common causes include:

  • Genetic disorders or syndromes
  • Exposure to maternal infections
  • Ear malformations
  • Birth complications or trauma

Your baby’s pediatrician might recommend genetic testing or imaging studies (i.e. CT or MRI scans) to explore the cause of hearing loss. In many causes, the cause is unknown.

What should I do if my baby passed their newborn hearing screening?

This is a good indication that their hearing is normal, but the screening is not foolproof. A mild hearing loss might not be detected, and some babies born with normal hearing could lose their hearing over time. Schedule follow-up testing if hearing concerns arise or if your child fails to meet age-appropriate speech and language milestones.

If you’re interested in scheduling an appointment with Texas Children’s Audiology Center, please call (832) 824-1000.